To give you some insight into how deep my nerd tendencies run, when I was 5 years old I asked my mom to buy a set of encyclopedias because I wanted to “know everything by the time I was ten”. My mom looked at me like I was from another planet and then gave a chuckle. That desire to learn has never left me. I have spent a number of years and a significant amount of money learning a little bit about many things. If you don’t believe me, I have a list of friends to testify on my mastery of useless trivia.

If something needed my attention, I went to research everything I could find on it. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it may have seemed, I wanted to have enough insight on it to at least carry on an intelligible conversation about it. I thought I could learn anything and everything this way. The reality was I didn’t want to make any mistakes or seem inexperienced about it. I felt that if someone wanted me to do something, or if something needed done, it was because I was perceived to be capable.

I didn’t want to give myself permission to go down in a giant ball of flames and it limited so many possibilities for me. I have since overcome that and have found the value in being wisely adventurous. I have also devoted a number of years to study and deepen my insight into my chosen profession, which includes employee engagement.

Employee engagement can be a scary subject for many people because it’s a challenge to even know where to start, let alone know if it will actually work. Sure there are things that just don’t work and you need to be aware of them, but instead of becoming all neurotic about what you shouldn’t be doing, take some time to learn about what is a good idea. You’re going to fall on your face, even with the help of a professional (like me) who are intimately involved with the subject. Accept that. You will be amazed at how much grace people will give you if you are genuinely trying to do something that benefits them.

Here are 3 important mistakes your company should make as you find your engagement footing that resonates well with the culture you want in your organization.

  • Let people really screw up – I know this sounds so counter intuitive you want to punch me in the face right now, but trust me. Give people the opportunity to crash and burn. This does a number of things. It shows people you trust them, you value their opinions and puts innovation and creativity through the roof. You can celebrate their initiative and coach them as to what made their decision a bit of a disaster. You are encouraging people to reach their potential and developing them professionally, as well as reinforcing culture.
  • Provide an opportunity to be taken advantage of – Most companies have policies, procedures and a number of other baby sitting-like structures in place. Your employees aren’t stupid and they know that you don’t trust them. Why are you hiring people you don’t trust? Don’t stifle the opportunities, just deal with the individual who has taken advantage of being given the option to be a trusted and responsible adult. You will be amazed at the response!
  • Develop someone for your competitor – I’m not suggesting you encourage someone to leave your organization and go work for your direct competition. I AM saying that people will leave your organization. Don’t let that deter you from developing everyone as if they were going to stay with you forever. This will retain the best people and will attract other top talent. The “greener pastures” crowd are going to use the revolving door approach anyway. Do you really want them to dictate the culture in your organization?

You will get burned on each one of these. I guarantee it. You will also reap a reward that you can only learn how to do it correctly after you have done it incorrectly. No amount of reading, studying, researching or consulting will teach it to you. This is good old-fashioned learning in the trenches. You will also develop a fiercely loyal group of people working for you. Each one of these foster an incredible amount of trust between employees and leadership, if managed well.

So go on…get out there and start making some mistakes!